Sunday, March 26, 2006

Signs of Spring

Date: March 26
Mileage: 54.0
March mileage: 301.2
Temperature upon departure: 38

Free Roadie: Can you imagine the frustration of sitting in a corner all winter long, watching the mountain bike go out day after day, knowing you'll only get a few spins when "Arrested Development" is on the TV. Then, one day, even that goes off the air. And you watch the snow piling up outside, thinking you may never, ever have relevance again. It's been a long winter for roadie. The snow may still be high. The chill still has its bite. But March is nearly over, so it seemed high time to drag roadie outside for a real ride.

Watching the tide: "It's like getting behind the wheel of a BMW after spending a winter driving a truck," Geoff said. Road bikes are so light and smooth. We were coasting ... flying ... effortless speed. It gave us a lot more time to look around. Taking in swift gulps of salt-flavored air, I had one of those "Oh, yeah, I live by the sea" moments. I often forget this fact, but it tickles my desert-dweller self every time I remember.

Ferry returns: And with it those people from faraway corners of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, who bring a satisfying sense of renewal, change, and new dreams of profiting off tourists. I've always wanted to set up a booth by a pier and draw grotesquely exaggerated charactures of celebrities.

New neighbors: There are some who are willing to brave these still below-freezing nights to stake a good spot on the Spit. As temperatures warm up, many will follow. They'll amass atop the tide-worn pebbles with their tents and folding chairs and Coleman stoves. Their's is a carefree civilization, a simple sort of life, a utopia. Non-Alaskans might call it a shanty town. I lived in this veritable tent city for a week one night - July 4, 2003. It's amazing I ever came back to Homer.

Line Outside the Theatre: Judging by the sheer numbers of actors roaming the streets, passing out fliers, and calling me on the phone - Homer often feels like a chunk of Hollywood broke off the mainland and floated north. They put on more community productions than the title character in "Waiting for Guffman." But I don't even think the Pier One Theatre is open yet. These eagles are really jumping the gun.

First Road Rash: While staring dreamily at another cluster of eagles gathered on the fishing hole ice floes, I broke the cardinal rule of roadie etiquette. That is, if you must insist on tailgating another cyclist (roadies get away with this by calling it "drafting"), do try not to hit them. I knew I had forgotten my manners as I heard that awful, split-second scrape indicating a direct hit. But all I could think about, as I slammed into bare, dry pavement at 15+ mph, is how wonderfully merciful snow can be, and what a bitter grudge the road can hold.

Sorry to end my photo essay with such a graphic picture. I tore up my knee, my hip, and my favorite pair of cycling pants. I dislodged a spoke, and I still had 10 miles and the 1,200-foot climb left to ride before I could limp home and try to pick the gravel out (gaaa-oowwwww). Roadie might be grateful for these signs of spring. I could probably use some more snow.